Your lifetime car insurance bill: $94,000

By Mark Vallet

Life is expensive.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a college graduate will earn $2.1 million over a lifetime. Most of us leave very little behind because groceries, cars, daycare and the mortgage consume nearly every penny.

A lot of those pennies go to car insurance.

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Over a lifetime of driving -- age 16 to 78 -- the average person will spend about $94,000 on insurance, according to data gathered by CarInsurance.com. The analysis of nearly 200,000 car insurance quotes sorted customers by age, then added up average costs for 62 years on the road. Drivers with all kinds of claims, driving and credit histories were included.

If that seems like a lot -- nearly two years of income for an average household -- compare it to a lifetime of other expenses:

·     A child. The Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion puts the cost of raising a child to the age of 17 at $235,000. College increases the cost significantly. (See “What a teenager does to your car insurance rates.”)

·     An iPhone. Using a 32GB iPhone from age 21 to 75, buying a new phone every six years, will run you about $72,000. Compulsive upgraders and heavy data users would pay even more.

·     A caffeine habit. Hitting Starbucks every morning for a $4 latte will cost $88,000 over 60 years. Making your coffee at home will almost cover car insurance for life.

·     A nicotine habit. Smoking a $5.25 pack a day for 60 years totals $115,000, not to mention the thousands of dollars more you’ll pay for life and health insurance.

Average car insurance quotes by age

AgeAverage quoteAgeAverage quoteAgeAverage quote

16

$4,075

24

$1,749

60-64

$1,159

17

$3,564

25-29

$1,573

65-69

$1,138

18

$3,165

30-34

$1,519

70-74

$1,161

19

$2,502

35-39

$1,484

75-79

$1,218

20

$2,381

40-44

$1,384

80-84

$1,381

21

$2,124

45-49

$1,324

85-89

$1,370

22

$1,964

50-54

$1,252

90-94

$1,640

23

$1,823

55-59

$1,182

95-plus

$1,955

Some things you can’t control

Some costs are baked into your lifetime of car insurance. You will pay more when you are young. You will pay more if you continue to drive when you are very old. (If you drive to the ripe old age of 102, your lifetime of car insurance will cost you $131,000.)

Surprisingly, being a woman doesn't pay a huge dividend over a lifetime when it comes to car insurance. Women paid about $1,000 less, according to the analysis.

Ultimately, though, the choices you make as a driver and consumer shape your insurance destiny.

Where you live makes a big difference, largely because state laws and legal climates vary so much. Drivers in Arizona and Maine have the cheapest car insurance. The most expensive? Michigan and Louisiana.

You may not move for bargain car insurance, but you can choose the right neighborhood. Insurance companies look at claims in your area as they price your coverage. (See how your ZIP code compares with CarInsurance.com’s “Nosy Neighbor” tool.”)

And some things you can

"Driving safely, getting very few tickets and being involved in a minimum number of accidents over your lifetime will have a big effect on your premiums,” says Mario Morales, spokesperson for MetLife Auto & Home. “Managing your credit responsibly is also key."

Bad drivers pay a penalty for their behavior. Get a ticket every three years and you will pay a total of $102,000.

Good credit, on the other hand, can save you as much as $22,000 over your insurance lifetime.

American Family spokesperson Janet Masters reiterates the importance of your credit rating, "There is very strong statistical evidence that credit history can help an insurer accurately predict the likelihood of insurance claims. Almost every insurance company currently uses credit-based insurance scores. Maintaining a solid credit history can lead to lower insurance costs."

Both Masters and Morales advise drivers to carry the highest deductibles they can afford. Morales points out that while the standard deductible used to be $250 to $500 it has risen to $1,000 in recent years. (See “Will higher deductibles save you money?”)

It’s not a bad idea to routinely double-check your savings and discounts eligibility, either.

That’s too much! I’ll give up driving!

What else could you do with that $94,000 if you spent your life walking, taking public transportation or mooching rides?

  • You could give a 16GB iPad to 188 of your closest friends, or an iPad Mini to 285 random strangers.
  • You could buy a house in Niagara Falls, N.Y., where the average listing is $60,820. You will have almost $35,000 left over for furniture and improvements.
  • You could buy yourself a Porsche 911 Cabriolet and still have a few hundred dollars left over. 

But of course, without car insurance, you couldn’t drive it.

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